No this is not a basement distillery at DigDeep HQ (though what a great idea). In fact, it’s an exciting new experiment taking place at Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering.
DigDeep is in New York this week, and we decided to catch up with our friend Kartik Chandran, professor of applied science and a true water wizard.
Kartik and his students are investigating bio-mechanical processes to clean and reuse waste water - including urine and sludge. The plan is to find a natural, carbon-neutural way to change urban waste back into drinkable water, while harvesting components for bio-fuels. By better understanding the way microbial communities (or bacteria towns) behave, Kartik and his team hope to break otherwise harmful sewage down into something helpful.
It’s an ambitions goal - but one that could change urban water management forever. New processes like Kartik’s could help communities around the world better use their resources, protecting water access for basic human needs!
The tank full of pasta-like structures in the picture above is actually a bacterial bath full of millions of colonies. They’re breaking down synthetic urine into something more, well, drinkable. It’s a bit like water into wine, but backwards and with a step in-between. Kartik and his team are the first to devise a system that treats wastewater naturally, and without releasing potentially harmful greenhouse gasses like carbon and nitrous-oxide.
Check out Kartik’s bio here, and check back for updates on his progress. We hear the city of New York is about to invest in some of his technology. Rumors, rumors.